Richmond is a busy urban center, packed daily with breaking news stories and events. The Standard staff thrives on this energy, but even us news junkies need a break from the hustle and bustle from time to time. Luckily, since we’re in Richmond, we don’t have to go far to catch a proper breather.
Editor Mike Aldax often takes a quick drive through the Fort Point Tunnel in Point Richmond, then parks in the lot at Miller/Knox Regional Park. He rolls down his car windows, letting in the cool shoreline breeze, and has his lunch.
Standard writer Kathy Chouteau, also drawn to the Bayfront, chooses Point Isabel Regional Shoreline as her preferred “getaway” spot. Her family, including husband and fellow Standard writer Zach Chouteau, their 6-year-old son Logan and their pug Lulu, play around in the park before stopping by the Sit & Stay Café for a bite or caffeine fix.
Meanwhile, Zach’s top urban escape spot is the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline by Atlas Road, which he called family-friendly, dog-friendly, with sweeping views and a new play structure designed a bit like a rocket “that’s great for climbing.”
You may have seen Reporter Mike Kinney bicycling around town to various breaking news events. When he’s not chasing down stories, he’ll occasionally roll into Alvarado Park and Wildcat Canyon at the top of McBryde Avenue. The writer with Native American roots calls it a “spiritual retreat.”
Relevant Article: Local nonprofits receive additional grants to connect youth with nature.
When it comes to the wide variety of nature options accessible to Richmond area residents, we can thank the diligence of open space advocates dating as far back as the early 1900s. They helped form what we know today as the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD), which oversees 121,397 acres in 73 parks in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including five parks in Richmond: Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Dotson Family Marsh, Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline.
Combined, these Richmond-area parks offer nearly every outdoors activity possible — hiking, fishing, jogging, biking, boating, horseback riding, picnicking and nature programs for youth. They have become spiritual oases for Richmond-area residents.
In the City of Pride and Purpose, there is much pride in knowing Richmond has the most miles of shoreline and access to parklands than any other Bay Area city. And while we are able to enjoy all of this nature just a stone-throw away from our homes, efforts are ongoing to protect, enhance and sustain them into an uncertain future.
For the benefit of natives and newcomers alike in the Richmond area, we’ve put together a guide detailing the five nearest EBRP parks, their amenities and programs sure to enhance your visit.
Point Pinole Regional Shoreline
Giant Entrance: 5551 Giant Highway, Richmond, CA 94806
Atlas Entrance: 3000 Atlas Road, Richmond, CA 94806
Point Pinole is a beautiful, 2,315-acre parkland right next to Pinole, Richmond, and San Pablo. It features 12 miles of trails of varying lengths, with views of Mount Tamalpais, the Marin shoreline, and boats in the San Pablo Bay. Visitors can watch for the 100+ species of birds that live in the park, ride bicycles, go horseback riding, and fish at Point Pinole’s fishing pier. It is a great place to picnic with the family and meander through the park’s diverse environments.
Dotson Family Marsh
Goodrick Ave, Richmond, CA 94801
The Dotson Family Marsh is a recently restored area within the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, boasting 150 acres along the water. When the marsh reopened last year, it was renamed “Dotson” after a family who has fought hard to keep the shoreline from development over the past several decades. The new and improved marsh has been designed to accommodate rising sea-levels and is self-sustaining.
The park hosts two new hiking trails that lead out to a point overlooking the San Pablo Bay, as well as a 1.5 mile extension of the San Francisco Bay Trail and a picnic spot at the crossroads between the two.
Wildcat Canyon Regional Park
5755 McBryde Ave., Richmond, CA
Wildcat Canyon is a Regional Park in Richmond which encompasses 2,427 acres along the hills. It extends from Alvarado Park at the north end of Richmond to the Tilden Nature Area in the Berkeley Hills. Visitors often escape to Wildcat Canyon to enjoy the peace and quiet as well as to hike, mountain bike, and horseback ride on the 25 miles of trails. The park is known for its unique stonework, including stone walls, light standards, and a beautiful stone arch bridge across Wildcat Creek. It also features a playground and picnic and barbeque facilities for visitors to enjoy while keeping an eye out for the plentiful wildlife.
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline
2701 Isabel Street, Richmond, CA
Point Isabel Regional Shoreline has been named one of the top ten dog parks in the US and continues to be a popular destination for both dogs and dog-owners. It is one of only a few parks in the area that allows dogs to be off-leash, as long as they are under voice command and within their owner’s sight. The park boasts views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin County, and Brooks Island, and is host to Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub—a dog washing and retail store—and Sit & Stay Café, a nice snack spot for humans. Point Isabel is 23 acres and is located on the west end of Richmond’s Central Avenue. With opportunities to bird watch, bicycle, fly kites, wind and kite surf, kayak, and picnic, this park is a catchall place for humans and dogs alike.
Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline
900 Dornan Drive, Richmond, CA 94801
Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline is yet another great park for picnicking and hiking. In addition to the usual trails and picnic tables, however, Miller/Knox hosts a mile-long paved loop around a saltwater lagoon, a beach on the northern end of the park, and strong winds that make for excellent kite-flying conditions. Visitors can wade and swim in the San Francisco Bay at Keller beach, which has nearby facilities such as restrooms and showers. There is also a Ferry Point with a fishing pier, and an open volleyball area is located right next to the lagoon.
Ongoing land-use plan:
“We really want to enhance the Miller Knox park for the Richmond community, to have a new fresh experience, some new amenities, ability to have more picnic areas, maybe to have additional play equipment of the kids,” Johnson said “We’re going through the process asking for the community’s input, having some public meetings. That’s important because we really want the community’s input: whatever comes out of this input process is going to be the future of this amazing area.”
What’s to come for local parks:
A long list of improvements are on the horizon for our proverbial “backyard” of nature fun, particularly on the shoreline, as EBRPD looks to restore habitats and accommodate for expected sea level rise due to climate change, said Carol Johnson, assistant GM of public affairs for the district.
A critical step in that effort is coming in the upcoming November 6 general election, when EBRPD hopes to pass Measure FF, an extension of the Measure CC parcel tax that was passed in 2004 and is set to expire. Measure FF won’t raise taxes, keeping the rate at $1 per month per single-family parcel or $12 per year, and 69 cents for multi-family units, the district said. Raising $3.3 million annually and expiring in 20 years, the funds will assist the district’s efforts in wildfire prevention, public access, ensuring safe parks and trails and enhancing and maintaining natural habitat.
Funds raised under Measure CC were critical in the recent creation of the award-winning Dotson Family Marsh, which was dedicated last year following a $14 million habitat restoration and public access project.
Formerly known as Breuner Marsh, the restored wetlands are now helping protect threatened and endangered species and includes 1.7 miles of new Bay Tail and a new southern entrance to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. At the same time as that was built, the $11 million Atlas Road Bridge was built to provide additional access to Point Pinole. The investments were made as a collaborative effort between EBPRD, local jurisdictions and community members, particularly the Dotson family, who battled to oppose development proposals on the marsh such as housing, an airport or other industrial uses.
“A lot of people know it took a long time and a true community effort to get [Dotson Marsh] away from the hands of development and into the hands of the public where it belonged all along,” Johnson said. “The community made that happen. The park district was there to be the agency delivering the project to the finish line.”
And there’s no stopping at Dotson Family Marsh when it comes to open space improvements.
Right now, Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline, the 307-acre park that features a swimming beach, fishing pier and model railroad museum, is undergoing a long-term land use plan to enhance the area.
Funding commitments under Measure FF include $7.8 million for West County parks, from shoreline protection to habitat enrichment and educational and recreational programming. New bike and pedestrian trails continue to open almost annually near urban centers.
In September, a ribbon-cutting celebrated the construction of a new bridge connecting Pinole’s Bayfront Park with Pinole Shores that adds another half-mile segment to the San Francisco Bay Trail, the 500-mile multi-purpose trail encircling San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.
This month, one of the largest remaining gaps in the Bay Trail — a 1-mile stretch west of Golden Gate Fields — is set for construction.
The City of Richmond has more than 34 miles of Bay Trail, “far more than any other city,” according to the Richmond Trails for Action Committee, one of EBRPD’s many partners on local projects. But if the shoreline isn’t your cup of tea, Wildcat Canyon Regional Park has 25 miles of trails from which to venture through nature.
“The wonderful thing about Richmond is that just within that collective area you have all those different experiences, from the scenic shoreline to completely off-the-beaten paths in the woods and in the hills,” Johnson said.
From time to time, a quick getaway to nature is something we all need – including our news staff. We feel lucky to have such expansive open spaces: not just in our back yard, but all around us.